Last Sunday James turned two. For his first birthday we had a Caterpillar Music party at our house, and although this was great and he really enjoyed it, I wanted to do something more low-key this year – less mess and less organising! We decided we wanted to take him out on a day trip somewhere, but we weren’t really sure where. I got speaking to my friend Hayley at a toddler group who recommended Thomas Land at Drayton Manor. I knew it was a favourite of hers and her kids and she assured me the queues aren’t too bad. The thought of having to queue for ages with a whining toddler that doesn’t understand the concept of queuing did not appeal to me. I spoke to my husband and we both agreed Thomas Land sounded great. James likes watching Thomas on Amazon Prime and he has a ride a long Thomas that he loves playing with, so we thought he would recognise Thomas and enjoy himself.
The last time I visited Drayton Manor was in the 90s when I was at school. I remembered it being a lot smaller and not as good as Alton Towers, but being easy to walk around. The old Klondike Gold Mine rollercoaster at Drayton Manor was actually the first rollercoaster I went on. However, when we visited on Sunday it was unrecognisable from my 90s memories, and there was no Klondike rollercoaster there, but it was still easy to walk around with the rides all being fairly close together.
Thomas Land opened at Drayton Manor in 2008 and is conveniently situated near the entrance. From my memories (and some Google searching) the entrance used to be in a different place. James seemed overwhelmed as we entered, as he had never seen anything like it before. He kept saying “us” for bus as he could see a Bertie Bus as we were queuing for our first ride. The first ride we went on was Sodor Classic Cars, an old-fashioned car that children could pretend to drive, and was only suitable for one adult per car, so I went on with James. He seemed to enjoy it but did look rather confused by what was happening at times.
The next ride we went on was Winston’s Whistle-Stop Tours, another type of car but on a an elevated track, which was great for offering a view all over Thomas Land. The queue for this was quite long, probably about 15 – 20 minutes (or at least it felt that long!). At times it was hard to keep James entertained during the queuing for this ride, but luckily this was the longest queue we encountered. James wanted to run around, and other than looking through a window at other children in a soft play area there wasn’t much for him to look at. I really think Drayton Manor could improve Thomas Land by making the queing system more entertaining for kids. It would be good if there was some music playing, or Thomas on TV screens, just something to give the children some entertainment. My husband resorted to getting YouTube up on his phone near the end of the ride when James was really starting to lose his patience with queing. The ride couldn’t come soon enough, and luckily as soon as we got on it James was happy and enjoyed the ride.
We then went on Harold’s Helicopter Tours, which is a helicopter that circles around and goes up in the air. We began the ride by me squeezing into the front of the helicopter with James, but were soon informed that adults had to sit in the back. This didn’t go down well with James as I climbed into the back of the helicopter. He started the ride crying, but we suspected he would calm down as soon as it started, and we were right. He seemed to enjoy it. My husband and I on the other hand weren’t so keen on this ride. Slowly rising, whilst repeatedly circulating didn’t make you feel great and we were happier when it finished.
Drayton Manor has numerous food options to cater for everyone. However, we are a family that all like different foods, so catering to us all in one place can be tricky – I am a fussy vegetarian, James is just fussy and his dad likes most things containing meat. I thought trying to find somewhere to suit all of us when we have a hungry toddler in tow could be a nightmare, so I took a packed lunch for James and I and my husband ate at the Burger kitchen, where we were also able to eat our packed lunches. Although it was busy inside, we managed to get a table outside where there were a mix of people eating burgers and others that had brought packed lunches.
After lunch we decided to go and look around Drayton Manor Zoo. We didn’t fancy putting James on rides just after eating his lunch. The zoo is conveniently close to Thomas Land so we only had a short walk. I am not always a big fan of zoos as I just tend to feel sorry for the animals, but I was really impressed by this one and it was probably my favourite part of the day. In particular I loved seeing the monkeys; there was one swinging around and then a baby one with its parents, and the interaction between them was adorable. Their enclosure had a lot of impressive things for them to swing on and you could see them take full advantage of this. James also seemed interested as he watched them from his pushchair. There are lots of different animals ranging from owls to lynx’s. I did feel sorry for the tiger as it lay on a concrete block sleeping, but my husband read how they are trying to keep some tigers in captivity incase they become extinct. James is familiar with tigers from his That’s Not My Tiger book, and repeated tiger back to me as he looked at it. There is also a dinosaur trail, which fascinated James. The dinosaurs appeared to be life-size and it was great to have a perspective on how big they were.
We could see that there was no way James was going to fall asleep in the pushchair when there was so many things to look at, so we decided to go on a few more rides and then head home for a car nap. I don’t know if people tend to get there early and then leave after lunch, but it definitely seemed quieter in the afternoon and we barely had to queue for any of the rides. We went on Diesel’s Locomotive Mayhem which was quite entertaining as they span around the platform. My husband went on Lady’s Carousel with James and we all went on Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy, which was my favourite ride as it had more pace to it. You also have your own button to control going up yourself. There were a few rides in Thomas Land (ones we thought looked good) that James needed to be 1 metre for so we weren’t able to go on them. My husband did manage to sneak a ride on a queue free Shockwave before we left though. He did suggest we take James on The Haunting ride, where children under 1.2 metres can go on it if accompanied by an adult. I quickly convinced him that it wasn’t a good idea.
Thomas Land was a great day out and made a change from the things that we normally do with James. It isn’t cheap, so wouldn’t be something we do a lot, but I think we would all enjoy visiting again at some point in the future.